Sen. Joe Manchin: No senator would make up "atrocious" remark attributed to Trump

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, dismissed criticism of Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham over their accounts of President Trump's inappropriate remarks during a White House meeting on Thursday. Manchin told CBS News' "Face the Nation" that he didn't believe "any senator would walk in and make something up so atrocious" as Mr. Trump's use of the word "sh*thole" to describe several poor countries.

"Someone saying that Sen. Durbin or Sen. Graham is going to make something up that the president of the United States has said, and thinking that they would do that in order to gin up people on one way or another, that's wrong," Manchin said Sunday. "Sen. Durbin and Sen. Graham? I don't believe that any senator would walk in and make something up so atrocious as that, and say, 'This is what was said,' when it wasn't said."

During a meeting with senators on immigration, Mr. Trump questioned why the United States would accept more people from "sh*thole countries," according to Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. Graham reportedly told others that reports of the comments were accurate. Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were also present, disputed Durbin's account on Sunday. Cotton said he "didn't hear" the phrase, while Perdue denied that Mr. Trump said it at all.

Mr. Trump has also refuted the claims, tweeting Friday that he used "tough" language but "not that language," an apparent reference to the "sh*thole" comment.

Manchin said the episode amounted to a distraction from the issues facing Congress as a budget deadline looms.

"We've got to move on. I mean, if it was said in whatever content it was said, it was hurtful, it's harmful, it shouldn't have been said, but let's move on," Manchin said. "Don't let it stop the whole procedure."

Manchin sounded hopeful that Democrats and Republicans could continue to work together to deliver bipartisan immigration reform.

"I'm encouraged. I mean, first of all, we have a bipartisan recommendation, a bipartisan legislation, that's been worked on, worked out after they sat down last week with the president. And it seems to do everything that was asked of them. I would be very, very encouraged that hopefully all of my colleagues are going to look at this in a very positive way," he said.

He added, "And if the president said what he said, as far as you give me something in a bipartisan way, something you work out, and I'll sign it, we hope to get that done and move on. But this is, all the [hype] that's going on around it is unbelievable to me."

As for funding the federal government, Manchin says Mr. Trump needs to "stand firm" in support of a bipartisan deal to avoid a shutdown. 

"Every time I've been in the presence of the president of the United States, President Trump, I always felt that he wanted to do things in [a] bipartisan" fashion, said Manchin.

He added, "I think that after we leave the meeting, then the hardcore comes at him. The hardcore of the base, the extremes, come hard at him and changes things a little bit. I think he's going to stand firm. We're going to get something done and move forward and it's going to be good for our country."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital